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Melvin E. Payton, 74, Indianapolis, died May 12.

He was a teacher and basketball coach for Westlane and Northview Junior High Schools, retiring in 1988. Previously, he played professional basketball for the Indianapolis Olympians and Philadelphia Warriors.

He was an Army veteran of World War II. He was a graduate of Tulane University, New Orleans. Memorial contributions may be made to the Parkinson's Awareness Association.

Services: 2 p.m. May 14 in Washington Park North Mausoleum.
Calling: 1 to 2 p.m. May 14 in Washington Park North Mortuary.
Entombment: Washington Park North Cemetery.

Survivors: wife Ann Craney Payton; children Bob, Terry Payton, Susan Gillim; brother Fred Payton; sisters Kate Loffer, Alberta Labertew.

'Pappy' Don't Worry About Nothin'

Martinsville, Indiana, the home town of Tulane basketball star Mel Payton, has a population of 4800 and a high school gym that seats 5000.
Out-of -town coaches often ask the natives why, if they were going to build a gym to fit the town, didn't they make it an exact 4800.
They always get the same answer: "Wal, we usually have 200 visitors."
When it is no exaggeration to say of a town that every man, woman, and child will roll, walk, or crawl to see a basketball game, it is then easy to see how Tulane's "Pappy" Payton came to be the kind of basketball player that he is.
This season he starts his fourth straight year as a first-string member of a big-league basket ball team. He has hit 33 percent of his shots for 768 points and an average of 10 a game. He has established himself as the kind of a "clutch" player who will get the points his tem needs in a pinch, earned a reputation as a rebound wizard who uses his 6-foot-4 height to 7-foot advantage in Tulane's attempts to control backboard play, and hustled himself into his fellow-players' respect as a "holler" guy who can lead them to their best efforts.
"Pappy," who earned that sobriquet because he is the only man on the team with more than one year of varsity experience, has even taken it upon himself to lighten the coach's psychological burden.
Before an important game, coach Cliff Wells is in the habit of pacing nervously up and down his office. Payton is equally in the habit of stepping to the door and honoring Wells with "Pappy's thought for the day""Don't worry about nothin', coach," he will say. "It's in the bag."
When you realize that the Greenies lost a third of their 22 games last year and that all signs point to a less successful season THIS year, you can see that Payton's confidence is of the unshakeable variety.
His 6-4 physique is balanced so well with 185-190 pounds that he seems, from a distance to be much smaller. He sports the usual basketballs player's crewcut, and ambles along with a relaxed and rangy bowlegged gait. He invariably appears on court with the shirttail of his jersey hanging dejectedly about his hips.
Payton in action is quite a different matter. That shirttail flaps in the breeze. He thrives on Cliff Wells firehouse brand of fast-breaking basketball and his performances sparkle with at least three unique characteristics:

1) Rebounding. Though his height is no particular asset against opponents who have trouble keeping their heads out of transoms, he gets the edge by outmaneuvering them with courtwise jockeying under the basket, and beating them to the punch with his four fingertips on tap-ins, whereas other players often take time to palm the ball. When too far out to tap at the goal effectively, Payton can catch the ball and fire it back in a flick of the wrists without even bringing his arm down.

2) The Pivot Shot. This is the most unorthodox item in Payton's playing habits. You'd have to call it an "inverted hook shot." The standard maneuver for a center or pivot man (whose position on offense is a stance with back to the goal) is to turn and shoot with the hand farthest away from the opponent. Payton does exactly the opposite, turning INTO the man guarding him and shooting the ball, as it were, right in his face. He gets away with this again because of his quick hands.

3) He is invariably hell-on-wheels against LSU. Since Payton stepped on the Tulane court in 1947 the Tigers have not won a game. Seven timeseither at Baton Rouge, New Orleans, or Louisville, KYLSU has wound up on the short end of the score.

He is unequivocal in stating who's responsible for his proficiency at the game of basketball: "My big brother, Fred, taught me everything I know. When I was 8 and 9 years old Fred worked with me almost every day, and Sunday, too, drilling me in fundamentals, showing me all the tricks." Fred was "the 12th man" on the team. He had polio when he was 12, but by the time he reached high school he was good enough to make the team, even with the handicap.
Payton starred on the Martinsville High School Varsity in 1942-43-44 and made the "all-conference" selections as highest scorer in his last two years there. In '44 he had an 18.9 average a game. It is Martinsville's coach, Norbert Kneisley, whom Tulane has to thank for sending Payton South. Kneisley had played under Cliff Wells at Logansport, Indiana, High School.
When Payton got out of the Army in 1946 after 23 months service (part of it in the Philippines) he had several offers of scholarships. His good friend Alex Groza, Kentucky's all-American, whom he had met in the Army, wanted him to head for Lexington. Payton also had a look at Southern California, but decided against it. "Too foggy," he explains.
Then Kneisley came around to see him and extolled the merits of playing basketball under the wily Wells at Tulane.
The wartime laxity of allowing players four years of varsity eligibility was scheduled to end on July 1, 1947, for all those who were "not in attendance at that time."

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